Cannes is possibly the only time of year when advertising creative gets its due, with words like “brilliant” bandied about in headlines. This year’s event even came on the heels of recent announcements that major holding companies will merge creative and media together under one P&L. But post-Cannes, that’s all we’re left with: effusive language, awards, and announcements. Creative has already returned to back burner until the yachts fill up again next June.
This is a massive misunderstanding of priorities, especially in the digital space, now that mobile dominates online media. Mobile throws open the doors to new kinds of engaging ads and immersive experiences, but those only work if media and creative teams work together closely. Rather than serve as another reminder that creative will forever live in media’s shadow, this year’s Cannes event should mark the turning point where advertisers reunify the two disciplines.
First Step, Radical Move
Truth be told, some are already leveraging this opportunity. While Publicis Groupe’s announcement that it would skip next year’s event and instead focus on its Marcel AI platform was met with derision, this is actually a step in the right direction. Some have gone so far as to say Marcel signals the “end of the creative department,” the move is going to do more good than bad. Indeed, it’s a risky proposition, but the prospect of getting 80,000 employees to work together will not kill creative. Instead, it will ensure that creative and media are pooling their ideas and working together.
The reason this move is considered so revolutionary is because this unification is so rare across the digital ad space. Many of the advertising technology tools used today are media-specific tools designed for the desktop. They started out as ad networks and then shifted to DSPs, with the goal of helping advertisers and agencies access media at scale. This development did not take creative into account on the desktop, and it certainly has not done so in mobile, where immersive, interactive ad experiences are completely different from anything possible on the desktop. There are creative-focused companies, in ad builders such as Celtra or Flashtalking, that are used by designers to build great mobile ads. But they still represent a rift between creative and media, because media buyers need to trade through DSPs on one side, and creative designers must use a second platform to build ads on the other side.
Mix and Mingle
It has been very difficult to get creative and media people to regularly talk with one another, both inside agencies, as well as in the development space, where ad tech is built. Media teams are not thinking about creative. Often, the creative people are in another building, building the ads on their own, without taking into account mobile specificities, like the size of screen or the interactivity of the device. On the media side, there are still conversations where buyers think that mobile is just a 320×50 small banner that appears at the bottom of the screen. There’s no communication. It feels at times as if creative and media people come from different cultures, rather than the same advertising world.
Bringing creative and media together requires the media side to fully grasp what’s possible in mobile, and then build their campaigns around that. This might not be as simple as sitting a media trader down for a lunch and learn or a demo. It may require a new generation of trading tools where the media team actually loads in the creative themselves. It could potentially even be a process where the media and creative teams use the same platform together to build and execute their campaigns, working side by side.
The other major component is moving towards branding metrics. Mobile has disrupted digital media, but digital media can only upend the traditional side of the business with the heavy investment of branding budgets. Branding is synonymous with creative, of course, but it also requires technology that is geared toward branding goals. If an advertiser wants to push a branding campaign that relies on expensive, eye-catching creative, they want to optimize to interactions, or video-view-throughs. Today, this isn’t as easy to do as optimization toward clicks or website visits.
Truly bringing together creative and media will require a reassessment of advertising technology. So, with Cannes is in the rear-view mirror, as advertisers, agencies and tech companies need to look back on the occasion as a turning point, where we can begin to eliminate some of the complexity of advertising technology and begin to reunite media and creative.